PS/2 Synth Will Knock You Off Your Broom


Here’s a hack centered around something a lot of people have sitting around: a PS/2 keyboard. [serdef] turned a Harry Potter-edition PS/2 into a combination synth keyboard and drum machine and has a nice write-up about it on

For communication, he tore up a PS/2 to USB cable to get a female mini DIN connector and wired it to the Nano. He’s using a Dreamblaster S1 synth module to generate sounds, and that sits on a synth shield along with the Nano. The synth can be powered from either the USB or a 9-volt.

Keymapping is done with the Teensy PS/2 keyboard library. [serdef] reused a bunch of code from his bicycle drummer project which also employed the Dreamblaster S1. [serdef] is continually adding features to this project, like a pot for resonance control which lets him shape the waveform like an analog synth. He has posted some handy PS/2 integration code, his synth code, and a KiCad schematic. Demo videos are waiting for you across the link.  Continue reading “PS/2 Synth Will Knock You Off Your Broom”

Building A True Unix Keyboard


compact keyboards that do away with a third of the keys you would usually find on a normal-sized keyboard are all the rage now, but for [jonhiggs], they weren’t good enough. There is a long tradition of Unix shortcuts these compact keyboards don’t pay attention to – CTRL-A being the Home key, and CTRL-D being the Page Down key. To fix this horrible oversight of Unix history, [jon] tore apart one of these compact keyboards, rewired the switch matrix, and made his own perfect keyboard.

The keyboard [jon] is using is a Filco Minila, a very nice and high quality keyboard in its own right.  After mapping out the switch matrix, [jon] wired all the switches up to a Teensy 2.0 loaded up with the TMK firmware. This is a pretty standard way of building a custom keyboard, and [jon] could have just cut a switch plate and installed panel-mount switches and wired up the matrix and diodes point to point. The case for the keyboard is constructed out of Lego.

Because this is a true, modern Unix keyboard, [jon] needed to connect this keyboard to a box running his *nix of choice. He’s doing this in the most future-retro way possible, with an Amazon EC2 instance. This project isn’t done yet, and [jon] is hoping to add an ARM dev board, an iPad Retina display, battery, and SSD, turning this into a completely homebrew laptop designed around [jon]’s needs.

The Rabbit H1 is a Stationary Mouse Replacement

rabbit h1

[Dave] has some big plans to build himself a 1980’s style computer. Most of the time, large-scale projects can be made easier by breaking them down into their smaller components. [Dave] decided to start his project by designing and constructing a custom controller for his future computer. He calls it the Rabbit H1.

[Dave] was inspired by the HOTAS throttle control system, which is commonly used in aviation. The basic idea behind HOTAS is that the pilot has a bunch of controls built right into the throttle stick. This way, the pilot doesn’t ever have to remove his hand from the throttle. [Dave] took this basic concept and ran with it.

He first designed a simple controller shape in OpenSCAD and printed it out on his 3D printer. He tested it out in his hand and realized that it didn’t feel quite right. The second try was more narrow at the top, resulting in a triangular shape. [Dave] then found the most comfortable position for his fingers and marked the piece with a marker. Finally, he measured out all of the markings and transferred them into OpenSCAD to perfect his design.

[Dave] had some fun with OpenSCAD, designing various hinges and plywood inlays for all of the buttons. Lucky for [Dave], both the 3D printer software as well as the CNC router software accept STL files. This meant that he was able to design both parts together in one program and use the output for both machines.

With the physical controller out of the way, it was time to work on the electronics. [Dave] bought a couple of joysticks from Adafruit, as well as a couple of push buttons. One of the joysticks controls the mouse cursor. The other joystick controls scrolling vertically and horizontally, and includes a push button for left-click. The two buttons are used for middle and right-click. All of these inputs are read by a Teensy Arduino. The Teensy is compact and easily capable of emulating a USB mouse, which makes it perfect for this job.

[Dave] has published his designs on Thingiverse if you would like to try to build one of these yourself.


Custom Electronics and LED Panels Brighten Up a Nightclub


When [Robert] is presented with a challenge, he doesn’t back down. His friend dreamed of reusing some old LED panels by mounting them to the ceiling of the friend’s night club. Each panel consists of a grid of five by five red, green, and blue LEDs for a total of 75 LEDs per panel. It sounded like a relatively simple task but there were a few caveats. First, the controller box that came with the panels could only handle 16 panels and the friend wanted to control 24 of them. Second, the only input device for the controller was an infrared remote. The friend wanted an easy way for DJ’s to control the color of the panels and the infrared remote was not going to cut it. Oh yea, he also gave [Robert] just three weeks to make this happen.

[Robert] started out by building a circuit that could be duplicated to control each panel. The brain of this circuit is an ATtiny2313. For communication between panels, [Robert] chose to go with the DMX protocol. This was a good choice considering DMX is commonly used to control stage lighting effects. The SN75176 IC was chosen to handle this communication. In his haste to get this PCB manufactured [Robert] failed to realize that the LED panels were designed common cathode, as opposed to his 25 shiny new PCB’s which were designed to work with a common anode design. To remedy this, he switched out all of the n-channel MOSFET with p-channel MOSFET. He also spent a couple of hours manually cutting through traces and rewiring the board. After all of this, he discovered yet another problem. The LED’s were being powered from the same 5V source as the microcontroller. This lead to power supply issues resulting in the ATtiny constantly resetting. The solution was to add some capacitors.

Click past the break for more on [Robert’s] LED panels.

Continue reading “Custom Electronics and LED Panels Brighten Up a Nightclub”

Building A Software Defined Radio With A Teensy


[Rich, VE3MKC] has been wanting to get into Software Defined Radio for a while now, but didn’t want to go the usual PC route. He initially thought the Raspberry Pi would be the best platform for a small, embedded device that could manipulate audio, but after discovering the ARM-powered Teensy 3.0, had an entirely different project in mind.

[Rich] is using a SoftRock SDR to take RF from an antenna and downconvert it into the audio range. Doing DSP for SDR is fairly computationally intensive, but he found a Teensy 3.0 with the audio adapter board was more than up to the task.

So far, [Rich] is running the audio from the SoftRock to the Teensy where the audio is digitized and multiplied with a VFO, sent through a filter and then sent to the output of the headphone jack to a speaker. The volume pot on the audio adapter board is used to tune the VFO, something [Rich] be replacing with a proper encoder sometime in the future.

In the videos below, you can see [Rich] listening in on a contest with a tiny TFT display showing everybody on the air. It’s a very cool build, and even though it’s still very early in development, there’s still a whole lot of CPU cycles for the Teensy to do some very cool stuff.

Continue reading “Building A Software Defined Radio With A Teensy”

Bare-metal Programming On The Teensy 3


The Teensy 3.x series of boards are amazing pieces of work, with a tiny, breadboard-friendly  footprint, an improbable amount of IO pins, and a powerful processor, all for under $20. [Karl Lunt] loves nearly all the features of the Teensy 3, except for one: the Arduino IDE. Yes, the most terrible, most popular IDE in existence. To fix this problem, [Karl] set up a bare-metal development environment, and lucky us, he’s chosen to share it with us.

[Karl] is using CodeBench Lite for the compiler, linker, assembler, and all that other gcc fun, but the CodeSourcery suite doesn’t have an IDE. Visual Studio 2008 Express is [Karl]’s environment of choice, but just about every other IDE out there will do the same job. Of course a make utility will be needed, and grabbing the docs for the Freescale K20 microcontroller wouldn’t be a bad idea, either.

The end result is [Karl] being able to develop for the Teensy 3.X with the IDE of his choice. He was able to quickly set up a ‘blink a LED’ program with the new toolchain, although uploading the files to the Teensy does require the Teensy Loader app.


Multijoy_Retro Connects Your ‘Wayback’ to your ‘Machine’


Moore’s law is the observation that, over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years. This rapid advancement is certainly great for computing power and the advent of better technology but it does have one drawback; otherwise great working hardware becomes outdated and unusable.  [Dave] likes his flight simulators and his old flight sim equipment. The only problem is that his new-fangled computer doesn’t have DA15 or DE9 inputs to interface with his controllers. Not being one to let something like this get him down, [Dave] set out to build his own microcontroller-based interface module. He calls it the Multijoy_Retro.

Continue reading “Multijoy_Retro Connects Your ‘Wayback’ to your ‘Machine’”